Reflections on meeting Matthew

Living on opposite sides of the country is really weird. I thought it would be okay coming from Oklahoma when I moved to South Carolina; the humidity wasn't much of a surprise and I knew how to handle it mentally. What I couldn't prepare myself for was the hurricanes.

For those of you who pay attention to the news, you probably heard something about the destruction from Hurricane Matthew and, soon after, his little sister Nicole. Being on a literal barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, I knew we were going to get affected (one of the benefits of a barrier island is to be a--you guessed it--barrier for the mainland when it comes to storm surges and the like). I knew the hurricane was coming, and being from Michigan, where the worst thing we have to deal with is lake-effect snow, I was expecting the worst. The Charlestonians of the group assured me this was a category 2 hurricane (whatever that means), and there was nothing to worry about. On Tuesday, I was walking my Let's Sea class back to camp from the Mud Pit, and I got a call from Mom: "What are you doing? Shouldn't you be evacuating?" You know you're out of the loop when your mother in Michigan knows more than you on the status of the state you are living in. Between 5 and 6 PM, we were dedicated to securing everything for the inevitable. Chaperones were informed and students started cleaning cabins late Tuesday night to make for a smooth departure early on Wednesday after breakfast at 7:30 AM (usual Wednesday breakfast is at 8 AM).

By Wednesday morning, everyone was on the same page with the evacuation notice from the governor: "Everyone in the Low Country (or at least a certain distance from the coast) must go at least as north as Columbia, and by 3:00 PM, all of US-26 will be going northbound." Time was against us as all twelve of us naturalists worked to clean the cabins and finished securing everything across camp. By the time we finished, it was between 10 and noon.

Total days of Hurricane Holiday: 6.
Total estimated driving: 790 miles.
Making sure everything was secure in my bedroom, which was by now darkened by the board covering my window, I had my necessities for camping packed in my car along with my plants and stuffed dog (gotta know your priorities). Yes, I said camping. Lydia, Laura, and I were evacuating from a hurricane by going camping. Mother thought we were crazy. Laura's parents thought we were crazy.

After a half hour commute to Charleston, we consolidated into one vehicle and were on our way. This was where the hair and tooth pulling began. Just for future reference, guys: If there will be a possibility of both lanes going the same direction, WAIT UNTIL THEN TO GO NORTH. As we inched our way up US-26, police were working their way down the southbound strip, making certain nobody was going on it. We drove under bridges with people lining the edges of them, waiting eagerly to see the topsy-turvy traffic. Two hours later, people started passing us on the southbound side of the highway. After doing the math, we concluded that it took them two hours to drive what took us four. I think at one point in time, we were going a whooping four miles an hour on the highway... O_O

Many hours passed, and we were getting semi-close to our destination, so we stopped at a Wal-Mart for some non-perishable staples; i.e. bread. Who would've thought bread would be such a necessity for people during a hurricane? THERE WAS NO BREAD ON THE SHELF. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I think the tortillas may have been gone as well. I don't remember.

We didn't get to Pisgah until about 11 PM. Our sleeping choices were either sleeping in the Wal-Mart parking lot or finding a primitive spot and pitching camp. We were able to find where the roadside campsites were, but a lot of them were already filled with sleeping campers. Finally, we found an empty site, but it was covered in trash and... burned clothes? Uuuuuhhhhh.. no. Sleeping in the car in the parking lot of the ranger station it is!

It was a bummer my health wasn't in the best condition (the rain and chilly nights didn't help my cause); however, we were able to check out Looking Glass Rock during a good 6-mile hike, get pictures at the mouth of Looking Glass Falls, and check out the hatchery in Pisgah all while having a gorgeous roadside camping site we found on Thursday. Friday morning, though, we sat in a funky coffee shop/bike store sipping Chai lattes and concluded we couldn't camp anymore. A hotel definitely wasn't going to happen because everyone and their mother booked everything out, so off to Charlotte we went to spend a couple nights with Laura's family.

David kept pushing back the estimated day of when we could return to camp--at one point in time, there was nobody on the island to give us an update on the condition of the camp, and Seabrook Island had cut the power on Thursday when Matthew was estimated to strike--so Lydia and I still needed a place to stay on Sunday night. Thanks be to God, Michala and Tyler were so willing to have us for the night... and we had the chance to explore Caesar's Head State Park with them followed by staying with them in Fort Mill.

Monday evening, we made it back around 7 PM. Before I made it back, though, I had heard Main Rd. was closed getting back to Seabrook Island, but since 17 was flowing so well, I didn't understand what the problem was... until I made it to Main Rd. and saw the road closed sign.

What really stinks about Google Maps is she doesn't take into consideration of closed roads when plotting routes for me. I sat in my car for I don't know how long, parked in front of a sketchy Hawaiian bar-looking building, arguing with my phone and crying for God to lead me home because I was so tired of being in the car. It hit me that I'm sure this is how God feels when He's leading us where He wants us to go in life: we are dead-set on going a certain direction but don't see the things God sees.... like a ROAD CLOSED sign on the main road going home.

The volleyball court and campfire pit were a makeshift swimming 
pool for a while... #HurricaneHoliday
Finally made it home, and there was NO MAJOR DAMAGE to any of our buildings. Only some shingles were blown off, but that's it. THANKS BE TO GOD (sorry... lots of caps in this post, but holy snap, God is amazing)!!

Phew... that was a lot. But God provided everywhere in this adventure.

TL;DR Version:
Because I'm sure people need it...

  1. Hurricanes aren't a huge deal in the Low Country.
  2. When evacuating for a hurricane, wait until both sides of the highway are going north, and remember to wave to the people hanging over the bridges.
  3. Make sure you have bread before the hurricane because Wal-Mart won't have any.
  4. Pisgah National Forest is beautiful! Wish you were here!
  5. Vicks + Wool Socks + French Vanilla Chai tea = Heaven for a sickly ginger.
  6. God chuckles often, I'm sure, at our supposed assurance that we know where we're going, but we can't see something as obvious (to Him) as a Road Closed sign at our next left turn.
I could go on forever with nitty gritty details about how God provided through this experience. For instance, I'm sometimes a whiny wanna-be vegetable when I'm sick, so God provided me with not one but three mothers to take care of me in some way during these few days.

Ugh. So blessed.
Wish you were here! (Looking Glass Rock: Pisgah National Forest)
 Such a great opportunity for fellowship with new and familiar faces alike. It's crazy to see how God works in things like hurricanes to bring people together.

God bless! :)

P.S. Ben & Jerry's is not just a delicious tub of ice cream... THERE'S A STORE!
P.P.S. "Sparrows" by Jason Gray is such a good song, and God continues to use music in my life. AMEN.

Home sweet Home away from Home away from Home.


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